i put the kefir grains in 2% milk two nights ago. the first night, i was a moron and spilled all kinds of kefir into kitchen sink because i didn't know how to strain it out of the quart fermentation jar. you need to make a long funnel to pour into instead of a strainer. i made an impromptu funnel out of aluminum foil until i look for something permanent.
after putting in more milk, i got a half liter of kefir today. i pressed the kefir grains together somewhat using two water glasses, one smaller than the other, to extract out more of the whey and other liquid. what was left was relatively firm half cup of kefir grains. the number seems to have nearly doubled since the first night. there is a light sour smell, but it smells fresh, not rotten. the grains have a very interesting flavor.
i also got 5 more pints of yogurt started. i figure five is a good number: eat four and keep on for future culturing. sterilizing jars, lids, and seals is getting easier to do quickly. i've tried about three different starter cultures thus far and have found that the best is trader joe's store brand greek style yogurt. it firms up far better than danon. it has more active cultures listed, too (3 in total).
i had far more heated milk left over, so i decided to experiment with the kefir. i added a few tablespoons of the strained half liter of liquid and added it to each pint jar. i screwed on lids and rings and set it up next to the kefir grains. we'll see how that turns out in comparison. if the pint jars of heated milk and kefir get firm, then i'll try making cheese.
on another front, i talked with my wife's grandmother, an 90-something finnish woman. she remembers drinking viili as a girl. she talked about spooning off the mold growing on top of the fermented drink and then drinking the fermented milk. this whole fermentation jag i've been on since it got cold, has been a really interesting cultural lesson, too. all over the world, different cultures have used fermentation to preserve food.